Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Hoping to simplify the abortion trigger law case, Utah might repeal its clinic ban

Karianne Lisonbee and Jefferson Moss talk during the first day of the 2024 Utah legislative session at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City, Jan. 16, 2024.
Briana Scroggins
Special to KUER
Karianne Lisonbee and Jefferson Moss talk during the first day of the 2024 Utah legislative session at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City, Jan. 16, 2024.

A repeal of the abortion clinic ban that was passed into law last year is now in front of Utah lawmakers, and it’s not coming from Democrats. It’s being sponsored by Republican Rep. Karianne Lisonbee, one of the architects of the ban and the state’s so-called “trigger law.”

The clinic ban and the 2020 trigger law have been blocked from going into effect by the courts and both cases are currently in front of the Utah Supreme Court. Oral arguments on the trigger law were heard last August, but there has yet to be a ruling.

HB560 “repeals those portions that are currently enjoined,” Lisonbee explained during a Feb. 20 House Judiciary Committee hearing. “And it's my understanding that when we do this, it will simplify the question before the Supreme Court of Utah.”

Lisonbee described the “long and drawn out” process since the trigger law was first enjoined and said there is “no indication” from the court that it was close to making a ruling on the nearly two-year-old case.

“And so removing these portions that were enjoined … will actually remove some of the complicated questions that are before the court so that they will just have the simple question of the trigger law ban.”

Several anti-abortion advocates spoke in favor of the bill and expressed a hope that it could expedite a ruling in their favor in a state that is as hostile to abortion as Utah is.

For its part, the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah — which filed the lawsuits challenging both the trigger law and the clinic ban is neutral on the current bill.

“I am concerned about the legislative whipsawing that is the outcome of a system that seems to be more interested and concerned with inserting itself into people's most private and personal medical decisions than it is with coming to the table with partners to find solutions for the complex and really needed, support the families need in our state,” said Chief Corporate Affairs Officer Shireen Ghorbani.

”The cycle of writing and repealing laws only feeds the uncertainty that these patients face, and makes this a more dangerous state for people who are trying to have families.”

Democrats also voiced concerns about the Legislature writing laws to impact cases currently in front of the state’s high court.

“That is unusual and I think it is a derogation of our responsibilities and a violation of separation of powers principles that are pretty basic,” said Rep. Brian King.

“I certainly have feelings about this issue based on my religious upbringing and background. But we as legislators are obligated to separate what makes good public policy from our individual moral beliefs. And if we don't do that, we're little better than Afghanistan. We're little better than any other country that believes in the need to fuse church and state.”

The bill passed out of committee on a 9-2 party-line vote and now heads to the full House for debate.

Sean is KUER’s politics reporter.
KUER is listener-supported public radio. Support this work by making a donation today.